There’s no denying that stay at home orders have turned almost all of our lives completely upside-down over the past few months. But one of the unexpected silver linings has been discovering (or rediscovering) the daily routines that keep us feeling mentally and physically healthy. The habit that I’ve found to be most beneficial during this time? Journaling.
I’ve always been aware of the benefits of journaling and have dabbled with keeping one on-and-off over the past decade. But the past six weeks have shown me just how much of a difference it makes to set aside daily time with my journal.
Establishing a ritual of sitting down and letting my thoughts flow onto the paper has helped me work through the rollercoaster of panic, boredom, and anxiety that coronavirus has strapped me into. It has also helped me harness flashes of inspiration on the good days – giving me something I can look back on when I need a boost or am starting to feel like quarantine has put my entire life on hold. I’m more of a believer than ever that everyone can benefit from a journaling routine. Read on to discover why it can be such a powerful change agent for your headspace – and how to get started.
It Forces Us To Face our Feelings Head On
I’m the first to admit that I’m not always the best at acknowledging my feelings and actually working through them. Often, I need to talk (for hours) to work through surface-level irritation to get to the root of what I’m actually feeling – and where those feelings are coming from. This is what I try to prioritize in my journaling practice. It gives me a safe space to get to the root of what I’m feeling and why, and allows me to do it at my own pace. Lately, I’ve found Amber Rae’s method of inviting your feelings to take a seat at the table by acknowledging them and writing from their perspective really helpful to ease into doing this. (You can learn more about this technique in her excellent book Choose Wonder Over Worry, and by checking out her Instagram, which is filled with great prompts to get the journaling juices flowing.)
What’s crucial to remember when journaling is to capture both the good and the bad feelings. Writing about having a great day and feeling inspired is every bit as beneficial as writing about feelings of stress or anxiety – both will help you discover the things in life that allow you to feel like the best version of yourself.
It Creates a Routine that Prioritizes Self-Care
It doesn’t matter what time of day you choose to journal, but I’ve found that trying to do it at the same point in the day every day is crucial. Establishing that routine helps you prioritize self-care by carving out a reliable chunk of time to just listen to yourself.
Right now, journaling in the morning works best for me as it allows me to transition into the day with a full picture of the emotions that are tagging along for the ride. I also do my best to set an intention before wrapping up my journaling session that I can focus on during the course of the day. That way, if I start to feel overwhelmed or unmotivated, I have something I can refocus and regroup myself around. But in the past, I’ve also enjoyed taking five minutes before bed to jot down the things I’m grateful for has helped calm my mind and transition more easily into catching some Z’s. So play around with where you incorporate journaling into your day to find what feels best.
It Makes Space to Be Playful
Though it’s easy to focus on using journaling to work through life’s heavy moments, it doesn’t all have to be so serious. So don’t forget to use your journal to capture and explore feelings of lightness and joy. For me, this takes the form of capturing the funny and absurd moments of daily life (channeling my inner David Sedaris, of course) or running with whatever daydream I happen to be hooked on that day.
There are really no rules here – you could spend your time doodling, or writing down your bucket list, concocting a recipe you’d like to try, or sketching out a plan to re-arrange your living room. What you’re putting on the page doesn’t matter (so don’t get caught up in feeling it needs to look like a perfectly composed bullet journal) as long as you’re walking away feeling inspired and invigorated.
It Creates a Record that is Uniquely Yours
Though the process of journaling is hugely beneficial to staying grounded and working through big feelings in real time, the record it leaves is just as important. Though the unusual time we all find ourselves in at the moment certainly deserves documenting, so do all of the little things in your life. Looking back on your journal entries weeks, months, and years from now can help contextualize your current headspace and measure how far you’ve come. It also allows you to approach your past self from a place of kindness and nostalgia, which is a huge step forward when it comes to minimizing negative self-talk.
Keeping this kind of record can also can help you figure out what works in your life and what doesn’t. This is why capturing both the happy and sad moments in life with your journal is so important. Consider it your personal roadmap through life – something you can reference back to help pinpoint what causes you to feel stuck, and how you’ve gotten yourself moving in the right direction in the past.
Ready to get started? Here are 15 journal prompts to try now.